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Democrats Unveil SCHIP Sequel; Hunt For Votes

Democrats huddled behind closed doors in the Capitol basement Wednesday for the unveiling of another children's health bill they believe will win enough votes to override a White House veto.

Last week, Democrats were 13 votes short of overriding President Bush's veto of the $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill, which would extend health benefits to 10 million uninsured children.

Here are the key changes Democrats have proposed, according to House Democratic aides:

First, there would be no funding for families making above 300 percent of the federal poverty line, which amounts to about $62,000 a year for a family of four. This is meant to address GOP criticism that too many middle income families might become eligible for government-subsidized health care.

Second, the new bill would cut off childless adults on SCHIP within one year of passage of the legislation, addressing concerns that too many adults are taking advantage of the program

And third, the legislation before the House Thursday would require more aggressive verification of Social Security numbers of SCHIP applicants, a move meant to assuage concerns that illegal immigrants could use bogus Social Security numbers to receive the health benefits. Under the Democratic proposal, applicants would have to provide more secondary documentation of citizenship if the Social Security Administration cannot confirm the applicant is a citizen.

Democrats have offered one other carrot for Republicans who opposed the first bill - they plan to require states to develop plans to prevent children on private insurance from dumping that coverage in favor of the government coverage under SCHIP.

The next move, of course, belongs to Republicans, who will have to figure out whether to back this bill or continue to oppose it. The Senate already has a veto-proof majority backing the SCHIP expansion, so there will be enormous pressure on a dozen or so House Republicans to switch their position and support the latest bill.